Changes to the Canada Labour Code Starting September 1, 2019

From September 1, 2019, the amendments to the Canada Labour Code came into force. These long-awaited changes only apply to federally regulated workplaces. They include employers in the transportation, banking and telecommunications industry among others. The list is long and there are certain exceptions that could exempt some employers.

We’ll highlight some of the significant changes to the Canada Labour Code that affected employers should be aware of.

Changes to the Canada Labour Code Starting September 1, 2019
Changes to the Canada Labour Code Starting September 1, 2019

Rest periods and meal breaks: One major amendment to the Canada Labour Code is that employees will now be entitled to a 30 minute rest period after every 5 hours of work. This rest period will be considered as their meal break. The employer must pay the employee if he/she is required to perform work duties during the course of this meal break. Additionally, employers are required to give their employees at least 8 consecutive hours off of work between work periods or shifts. There are however certain exceptions.

Medical and nursing breaks: According to the Canada Labour Code, all employees are entitled to unpaid breaks for medical reasons. The employee should provide the necessary documentation, often referred to as a medical note, from the health care provider that sets out the length and frequency of the required medical break. The employer is entitled to request for this medical note in order to verify that the break is necessary. Medical breaks include time off work to take medication, rest, stretch, etc. Employees will also be provided with unpaid breaks when necessary to extract breast milk or for nursing purposes.

Refusal of overtime: The new provisions now give employees the right to refuse to work overtime in order to undertake their own family obligations. This is subject to certain exceptions. For instance, the refusal to work overtime may be linked to health issues or educational needs of the employee or a family member/minor. The employee is also required to take reasonable steps to secure arrangements for such matters. Employees may be denied the right to refuse overtime when this would cause significant disruption of the day-to-day business or put the life, health or safety of another at risk.

Taking leaves of absence: The new bill not only introduces new leaves but also seeks to eliminate service requirements for parental leave, maternity leave, leave related to critical illness, death or disappearance. The medical documentation required to support certain leaves has also been slightly amended. Employees will now be required to provide medical documentation from a group of ‘health care practitioners’ as opposed to ‘qualified medical practitioners’.

The newly introduced leaves of absence include:

  • Leave for victims of family violence: Employees who have completed 3 months of continuous employment will now be entitled to up to 5 days of paid leave for each calendar year.
  • Leave for court or jury duty: This leave is provided to enable employees to attend court whether as a witness, a juror or as a participant in the jury selection process. The numbers of days are unspecified.
  • Medical leave: The provisions that were initially available for sick leave will be converted to medical leave. This leave covers 17 weeks of absence. It’s entitled to employees who are facing a personal illness or injury or medical appointments that are during working hours.
  • Personal leave: Employees will be entitled to 5 days of personal leave each calendar year after 3 months of continuous employment. Some allowed reasons for taking personal leave include a personal illness, urgent matters that involve family members among other matters that are prescribed by regulation.
  • Traditional aboriginal practices: Employees will be entitled to up to 5 days of leave to engage in traditional aboriginal practices such as hunting, fishing, harvesting among others stated in the Bill.
  • Bereavement leave: When the death of an immediate family member occurs, employees will be entitled to up to 5 days of bereavement leave each calendar year after 3 months of continuous employment. Those first 3 days of leave are paid.

Vacation entitlements: Employees who have completed 10 years of continuous employment with the same employer will now be entitled to 4 weeks of paid vacation at 8% of gross earnings. Those who have only completed 5 years of employment will be entitled to 3 weeks vacation time and a 6% vacation pay. This is a slight change from the previous regulation where the right to 3 weeks of vacation was only gained after 6 years of continuous employment.

Flexible work hours: New regulations give employees the right to request a change to the terms and conditions of employment. For instance, any employee who would like to negotiate changes in the number of hours worked, the location of work and other terms prescribed by the regulation, can do so after 6 months of consecutive employment. The employer will either grant the request in full or in part or refuse it altogether. The employer will be required to respond in writing by stating the grounds for refusal or partially granting the request.

With the new changes to the Canada Labour Code, it’s smart to have a qualified lawyer review your employment contract. If you have any questions or you’d like to better understand your legal rights, talk to Stacey Reginald Ball at 416-921-7997×225 or visit




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Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography